A CULTURE OF LIVING TOGETHER
ITALY, EUROPE AND THE MEDITERRANEAN
In response to the clamor of xenophobic sentiments in our society and in European societies, Sant'Egidio has chosen in favor of a culture of living together, it speaks of peace with "foreigners, our brothers" and underlines the tragic aspect of emigrating from war-torn regions, as well as immigration due to great poverty. In this way war has once again become a reality which concerns our opulent European societies which have forgotten the tragedies of the past and look with distraction upon those of the present. The Southern hemisphere, with its loadof sorrows, is as close as our backyard. Not far from our borders the drama of our "neighbor's house on fire" is unfolding. This is the dowry that numerous refugees bring with themselves: the stories of those who had to abandon everything and were forced to face the uncertainty of a dangerous journey towards a land where peace exists. The Community has involved itself with these stories working for the welcoming of immigrants and spreading the proposal for a peaceful society in European cities, as well as among the younger generations. This consists in an education of a culture of cohabitation and integration, founded upon the values of and peace. For this reason the movement created by Sant'Egidio with communities of foreigners bears the meaningful name "The Peace People".
Living together is also an immediate challenge in the south of Europe, in the Mediterranean. From the countries along this sea come immigrants and news of old and new conflicts. Here Sant'Egidio has created a tightly woven network of friendship and solidarity, in particular in the ecclesial and religious world. Mediterranean means the Middle East, with the presence of the ancient Christian churches by which the Gospel was brought to the West. It is a matter of a debt which Sant'Egidio feels strongly and lives in friendship with Christians of these lands. Mediterranean also means Maghreb, from which many of the foreigners living in Europe come and where dangerous hotbeds of tension and crises are ignited. Finally, Mediterranean signifies different worlds like, for instance, the Balkans. From its southern shores the not so distant presence of Africa can be perceived . A place of meeting and fracture, of cohabitation and clash at the same time, the Mediterranean possesses a unitary civilization but it is also the point of contact with Islam and with the larger Southern hemisphere.
Along this difficult border the Community of Sant'Egidio has for years been building bridges of inter-religious dialogue and has been working for peace. This is a commitment that has also developed in regions of conflict such as Lebanon, the Holy Land, and Algeria, with particular attention to Christian minorities. The encounter with the war in Lebanon took place in the early eighties, through the friendship with Eastern Christians. In the face of the crisis of cohabitation, Sant'Egidio prepared several humanitarian missions, such as the reception of several dozen elderly refugees from the siege of the Chouf (near Beirut) who stayed in Rome as guests of the Community for almost four years.
Meeting between Maximos V and Walid Jumblatt
Rome - Sant'Egidio
In 1982 Sant'Egidio hosted in its Roman head quarters a meeting between Patriarch Maximos V of the Melchite church and the Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, to negotiate the suspension of fighting around the village of Deir el Khamar. Thus was made possible the liberation of around three thousand Christians trapped by the fighting. In 1986 a request for help came from the Chaldean and Assyrian Christian minority of Iraq, involved in the bloody war with Iran. After the patient work of relations with the authorities of the neighboring countries, Sant'Egidio sent a mission which remained in the border zone between Iraq and Turkey for months and facilitated the liberation and passage to the West of several hundred Chaldean refugees. At the same time the Community has been working in the Middle East on the question of refugees, in particular Christians, and was involved in several negotiations for the liberation of hostages.